But can we go further, making disasters even ‘duller’ by also releasing finance before a disaster strikes?
UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, recently set out a compelling vision for how the humanitarian system can be improved. He argued that “disasters are predictable… we need to move from today’s approach where we watch disaster and tragedy build, gradually decide to respond, and then mobilise money and organisations to help, to an anticipatory approach, where we plan in advance for the next crises, putting the response plans and money for them before they arrive, and releasing the money and mobilising the response agencies as soon as they are needed…”
Crisis is becoming a new normal in the world today. In 2017 alone, adverse natural events resulted in global losses of about $330 billion, making last year the costliest ever in terms of global weather-related disasters. Climate change, demographic shifts, and other global trends may also create fragility risks.
- Human Capital
- Adaptive Social Protection
- Economic Crises
- Climate Change
- safety nets
- social protection
- South South Learning Forum
- Climate Change
- Labor and Social Protection
- South Asia
- Europe and Central Asia
- Middle East and North Africa
- Sierra Leone
- Yemen, Republic of
- South Sudan
- Sustainable Communities
While historically confined to medical and academic research, challenge funds – competitive financing for innovative solutions to entrenched problems – have gained traction in the international development field over the last decade.
Pioneered by the UK Department of International Development (DFID), challenge funds have championed transformational disruptive technologies, such as M-Pesa, Kenya’s mobile money transfer service. The electronic payment system, which allows users to withdraw, deposit and transfer cash through their mobile phones, started as a pilot project funded by DFID’s Financial Deepening Challenge Fund. Today, more than two thirds of Kenyans use the channel, and the innovation has changed the scope of financial inclusion programs globally.
: climate change, natural disasters, poverty, water scarcity, food insecurity, global displacement, conflict and violence. These are not the kinds of challenges that will go away on their own—they feed off one another and flourish. The world is responding with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which lay out a road map to building a more inclusive, peaceful and prosperous world—a better world.
For many emerging market and developing economies (EMDEs), the adverse impact is already a reality, with natural disasters becoming more frequent and severe. Unfortunately, many countries still lack the capacity to cushion these blows, and this can spur political fragility, food insecurity, water scarcity, and, in extreme cases, conflict and migration. Even in milder manifestations, these impacts can derail development and set back gains from years of investment.
: refugees, rapid and unsustainable urbanization and climate change, failure to meet basic infrastructure needs, youth unemployment and disengagement, and stubbornly poor health and education outcomes, to name a few. Set against a backdrop of political and public pressure to do more with less – and see results faster than ever – even the most optimistic among us are likely to view the glass half empty.
Many of the world’s populations are vulnerable to climate shocks – to drought, flooding, irregular rainfall and natural disasters. For these countries, cities and communities, index-based insurance is a critical risk-management tool which allows victims of such shocks to continue to have access to finance and to build resilience against future risks.
These days, it’s rare to open a newspaper (or scroll through a blog) without reading about a disaster striking somewhere in the world. Often, these disasters affect the very same countries that we support in our projects every day at the World Bank, and we watch helplessly as decades of development progress are erased within minutes, hours, or days. Disasters cause substantial losses in every country the World Bank operates in. It is truly not a question of if, but when, the next disaster will strike.
It’s important, then, that when we, along with our private-sector and government partners, always ask, “are our projects resilient to cyclone? What about extreme heat, or volcanic eruptions? In 50 years, will this project still be protected from increasing instances of flooding, landslides, and drought?”
In his “The People of the Abyss,” novelist Jack London describes in grim detail a devastating storm that rocked London in the early 20th century. Residents suffered terribly—some losing as much as £10,000, a ruinous sum in 1902—but none lost more than the city’s poorest.
Natural disasters are devastating to all affected; however, not everyone experiences them the same way. A dollar in losses does not mean to a rich person what it does a poor person, who may live at subsistence level or lack the means to rebound and rebuild after disaster strikes. Be it a drought or flood, the poor are always hit harder than their wealthier counterparts.
This disparity was closely examined in the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) report, Unbreakable: Building the Resilience of the Poor in the Face of Natural Disasters. Unbreakable recommended a range of policies to help countries reduce poverty and build resilience, providing cutting-edge analysis on how disaster risk management (DRM) and well-designed development can alleviate poverty and risk in 117 countries.
Sixty-five million people worldwide are displaced by conflict and war.
Developing countries host 95% of them.
Displaced people need help. But so do their host communities, which face enormous sudden pressures on their infrastructure, public services and markets. These pressures have the potential to undermine political stability.
This is why international development institutions are rethinking how to approach humanitarian crises, and no longer consider humanitarian assistance and development interventions as two separate, sequential responses. We, at the World Bank, have been ramping up our support to both people and communities affected by fragility, conflict and violence as well as disaster risk, which can exacerbate instability.
Being able to provide quality financial services before, during and after periods of humanitarian crises can improve people’s resilience and help sustain livelihoods.